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How to build wall mounted bookshelves for less than $100

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Picture of How to build wall mounted bookshelves for less than $100
Are you one of those who reads a few pages of a book then throw it on the floor before falling asleep? Are you one of those who stumble on the pile of books and magazines on the floor and hit your nose against the bed posts? That's me! So, I needed a simple bookshelf, mounted high enough for me to be able to put books on it. Ikea used to make a wall mounted shelf in the Billy series. They do not have it any more. Come to think of it, Billy was not wide enough to hold books. So, I decided to make one myself. The interesting part is that when you watch Norm Abrams or Bob Villa doing complicated projects, they make it too easy. However, for you and I, who have a day job doing something else, measuring 5/16th of an inch requires thinking. I guess, what I am saying is that you perhaps can relate to me more because I make ton of mistakes while doing these projects, and that's the fun part. I am sure if you look at the finished product, you will agree that I could not have used those shelf brackets from local Home Depot and mounted a few shelves for less that $20. They brackets simply are too ugly and the shelves do not have book ends. Okay, so now that you are convinced that you need a few of these bookshelves for you, let us move on to the next step.
 
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Step 1: The design

Picture of The design
I was thinking to build two units, approximately 3' wide and partially stacked on top of each other as shown in the illustration. The individual bookshelves came out to be pretty much as I had originally thought, however, my stacking idea did not work for me because I ran out of wall.

Step 2: Material & tools needed

All the material can be purchased from local Home Depot or Lowes.
You will need the following material to build one bookshelf which will be 3' wide and 9.75" deep with one fixed partition:
1. About 10' of 1X10* lumber. Any finished wood is fine except plywood. Oak is preferred, if you want a highly sturdy bookshelf.
2. Smallest box of 1 1/4" drywall screws
3. Four 2 1/2" deck screws to mount the bookshelf on the wall
4. Carpenter's glue
5. 3 1" long right angle brackets
6. Wood paint or polyurethane
7. Small brush.

Tools
1. Measuring tape
2. Square
3. Level
4. Circular saw
5. Power screw driver/drill
6. Power sheet sander
7. 40 Grit sandpaper for power sander
8. Hammer
9. Phillips screwdriver
10. Drill bits various sizes
11. Stud finder.

  • * Did you know that 1X10 lumber's actual dimention is 3/4"X 9 3/4"?

Step 3: Cutting pieces

Picture of Cutting pieces
Using the circular saw, cut the lumber into the following pieces:
1. 3' long for the base
2. 3' long for the back
3. 10 1/2" long for the left end
4. 10 1/2" long for the right end
5. 9" long for the divider

Step 4: Pre-drill holes

Picture of Pre-drill holes
C:\kumara\Images\2007-10-Bookshelf\2_Parts with holes.jpg
I pre-drilled small pilot holes at pre-measured lengths so that I could drive the drywall screws easily. Even though glue does its job, we need to secure the pieces together with drywall screws for two reasons:
1. They hold the pieces together until the glues dry off
2. Provide extra strength to the structure.

I could have used clamps. Keep in mind that unlike Norm and Bob I do not have unlimited supply of clamps. As a matter of fact I do not have any clamps. If you have trouble understanding this part, skip to the next few steps. Once you see the assembly, you will know exactly what I am talking.

Step 5: Fasten base, back, and the divider

Picture of Fasten base, back, and the divider
C:\kumara\Images\2007-10-Bookshelf\4_Reinforced Back.jpg
C:\kumara\Images\2007-10-Bookshelf\3c_Assembly.jpg
Use beads of carpentar's glue at the joining surface. Start fastening the drywall screws to secure the two pieces together. Reinforce the base with the back using three right angle brackets for extra strength. The brackets I used, came with small size screws. Attach the divider piece with the glue to the back and base piece. Fasten it with drwall screws from each side. Wipe out the access glue with a paper towel. Note that the divider in the picture below is for the bottom shelf of my design. The divider is put on the left side of the shelf. For the top shelf, move the divider to the right hand side.

Step 6: Attach the end pieces

Picture of Attach the end pieces
C:\kumara\Images\2007-10-Bookshelf\3b_Assembly.jpg
The process is the same. Attach the end pieces by applying glue at the contact points and then fastening the pieces with drywall screws. Let the assembly dry for 4-6 hours.

Step 7: Preparation for painting

Picture of Preparation for painting
The glue is now dried and the bookshelf is now ready to be painted or stained. Before you do any staining, use the sander to sand any rough edges etc., especially at the joint areas. I had actually cracked one of the end pieces, so sanding was an absolute must. I alseo decided to put small oak molding at the bottom and side pieces. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of this step. The process is real simple. You cut the molding strip into proer size. For the jonts, you make a 45 degrees cut and glue the pieces to the surface. To secure it until the glue dries, I used a few finishing nails. The molding is totally optional an does not add to any structural integrity of the bookshelf as such. I sanded the unit for the last time, ready to be stained.

I usually go for natural look with coats of polyurethane. This time I decided to give it one of those modern dark fancy color. I chose a Java color paint. The manuacturer recommended to use the primer to hide the wood grain. I used the primer on one unit and the other one without it. I did not like the idea of paint at all. In future I will just stick to Poly.

Step 8: Mount the shelf

Picture of Mount the shelf
C:\kumara\Images\2007-10-Bookshelf\IMG_0185.jpg
This is the most important part of the project. The bookshelf itself is heavy. After it is mounted, it will carry a lot more weight of the books and other items. The wall anchors will not work here. The bookshelf needs to be mounted straight on to the studs. Use a good stud finder to find the stud location. Use one of the 2 1/2" long deck screw with washer to fasten one side. Use a level to see if the shelf is completely levelled. Then, use the second 2 1/2" long screw to mount from the other side. Use your judgement to decide the location of these screws on the shelf. The idea is to distribute the weight properly. Fasten another set of screws a few inches below the first set for additional support.

The two pictures below are of the left and right divided bookshelves. Unfortunately, I was unable to mount them in a stacked design (as originally planned), so I put them at separate places.
poonies2 years ago
I love your design. You have done a great job explaining the process. A person like me with little woodworking skills can do this. Thanks so much!
DrDick4 years ago
Seems much more simple than other plans I have seen.

How much more difficult or costly would it be to make this shelf in clear heavy plastic instead of wood? drdick@dr.com
AntonioMDC4 years ago
given the beefy construction, you don't need those brackets—they will just end up mutilating the bottoms of your books :( as well as spoiling the smooth modern lines of your design. if you cut all your butt-end joints at 45° your glue joints will be way stronger than the brackets, though that can be an annoying chore and probably not necessary. actually your shelf is probably strong enough right now, as it stands, minus the brackets. think about it like this: the capacity of that shelf, before glue or the divider, just based on the end caps being screwed on, is something like 6 times the shearing force needed to make one screw fail. then add the pullout strength of all the screws coming up from below; and then you have the glue, which, as the old commercial used to demonstrate, is stronger than the wood itself! so, unless the 4 screws attaching it to the wall are a lot stronger than the ones holding it together, any further reinforcement is overkill. of course you could use more/stronger screws into the wall, this stout little shelf certainly has the capacity to take the extra weight.

if you want a feeling of extra security you could cut your end pieces so that the grain runs diagonally (from the top back to the front bottom corner, not from the top front to the back bottom.) make them the same size as the divider (will require a larger board to cut them from, or let the leading corner be cut off, won't hurt the strength, just a different look) and screw them from below and behind as you did with the divider. this way will both give you stronger glue joints than gluing onto end grain and somewhat hide the screw heads on the back and bottom. this is probably the strongest connection you can make without some sort of proper joinery involving fancy cutting.

however, if you are really attached to metal reinforcement, you could counter sink the brackets with a chisel or router (too fiddly) or put the brackets on the outside so they go behind and under (lumpy but the book are safe) or get the kind that are flat L shapes (much stronger than the kind you are using now, not that it is needed) and hide them between the end caps and the shelf/back, screwing through them as you put the end pieces on (still a bit lumpy if you don't want to cut notches for them, but it might be possible to hide the gaps with caulk or wood putty before painting.)



kabira (author)  AntonioMDC4 years ago
Thanks for the detailed comment. I acknowledge I designed the shelves to take load. To be honest, I am glad that I did, because I have a lot more stuff on them now, other than the books :). I liked your notch idea a lot. I will keep that in mind next time I make them.
LP815 years ago
Please note that depending on your lumber yard you go to - 99% of the time, a 1x10 is actually 3/4" by 9 1/4" not 9 3/4"
SkipMurphy5 years ago
pretty cool idea! I'm making something similar but i'm going to build this upside down and put hooks underneath. I'm only storing towels so it doesn't have to be as beefy! thanks for the idea and the how-to.
freckleface6 years ago
Uh, seriously why $100? I almost didn't read it because that's way to much to spend on a shelf or two. I just designed and made a play table for my toddler with scrap materials from another project and made it for like $5 (purchased red spray paint and a dowel). Why not plywood? Are you trying to put 4" hardcover text books on this? Just use scrap plywood or planks. If you want a more finished look on the front, spend a few pennies on a simple molding. Other than those two comments, this looks pretty nice an easy. I plan on making some (with plywood and altered dimensions) to hold my kids' DVDs.
Prograss7 years ago
Nice design and a good idea but I don't understand why a few planks of wood and a few screws would cost 100$
yeah, the materials are all pretty small, and even buying them brand new you shouldn't be looking at more than 30 bucks. You could probably get the stuff from the scrap bin or do some dumpster diving for materials for free.
lucas94677 years ago
i like it. very cool
jnixon7 years ago
Or, buy this for $20 from Ikea?
kabira (author)  jnixon7 years ago
No way dude! Ikea BJÖRKEN is only 5 7/8" deep and 24" wide. You want to hold the books not CDs.